The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and Arkansas’ rice farmers have begun a new construction project that is becoming increasingly novel in agricultural circles — a research station.
The Northeast Arkansas Rice Research and Extension Center will be located on 600 acres in Poinsett County in one of the state’s largest rice-growing areas. Land-levelling began on the site last fall but has been slowed by recent rains.
“I’m not excited about this at all,” said Tim Burcham, who will be the director of the new facility after serving as the dean of the College of Agriculture and Technology at Arkansas State University for six years. Burcham’s tongue-in-cheek comment drew a big laugh from the audience at the Arkansas Soil and Water Education Conference where he spoke.
Burcham told his listeners he had returned from a meeting of the Research Center Administrators Society at Mississippi State University the evening before. The group is made up of research station directors from across the U.S.
“I say this to our group— I’ve bragged on everybody in here,” he said. “You know how many new experiment station units are going in across the country right now? One, and it’s right here in northeast Arkansas. So we have the opportunity of a lifetime.”
The University of Arkansas and the Arkansas Rice Research and Promotion Board purchased 600 acres for the new facility in 2017. Burcham was named director of the Northeast Rice Research and Extension Center last summer.
“For our locals in here it’s the very next farm on the right past the RiceTec Research Farm on Arkansas Highway 1 between Jonesboro and Harrisburg,” he said, noting the station will be located just south of the Craighead-Poinsett County line.
The primary soil type is a Henry silt loam, which is typical of the rice-growing soils in the area of northeast Arkansas west of Crowley’s Ridge. The site includes a 31-acre surface water reservoir.
The land-levelling work will include changing some of the fields on the farm to a tenth of a foot slope, draining them to the L’Anguille River, which borders the farm on the west. Plans also call for six 18-acre zero-grade rice fields.
“From a land-levelling standpoint everything was going great,” he said. “We had a dry spell in early fall, and the soil down there was like flour. We got about 80 percent of the southeast quadrant done, and it started raining. And it hasn’t stopped since. Everyone in here who is farming knows exactly what I’m talking about.”
To receive updates on the station’s progress, follow @NEArkRice on Twitter.